I know someone who recently revealed the good news that she is expecting her first child. While that is commonly an occasion for joyful celebration, it is especially so in this situation.
It has been one of those cases where the desire to bear children has failed to be fulfilled for a period of years. There have been many prayers, along with all the medical tests and usages of modern technology to try to assist in the conception of a child.
So it's a special blessing to see those many years of disappointments and frustrations melt away in the light of the news of this new life God has given.
It's interesting how often a similar scenario is recorded for us in the Bible. There are a number of stories about those who were barren who eventually gave birth. Such a list would include the likes of Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Samson's mother, and Elisabeth.
One reason for those stories is because they show a common longing in the human heart, along with an emphasis on the importance of childbearing in that particular culture. But another purpose in those biblical accounts is to remind us of some truths about God.
For one thing, they help us remember that God is in control. We often stray into the mistaken notion that we are the masters of our own destiny. We plan everything out, thinking we know exactly how all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place in our lives.
Sometimes that includes figuring out the specific number of children we're going to have and the perfect time to bring each one into the world. Maybe we see the right time being whenever we get more financially secure, or whenever we move into a bigger house. Or for others, the right time may seem to be now.
But so often those well-laid plans don't work out as we had hoped.
Sometimes we're guilty of being one of those the Bible describes who declares his detailed plans for tomorrow when he doesn't really know what the next day may hold. We're reminded that we should say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that" (James 4:15).
Whether it's the barrenness of a womb, the unexpected conception of a child, a sudden sickness or death, a car accident, the loss of a job, or countless other unplanned events in our lives, we're often reminded that we're not in the driver's seat as much as we like to think we are.
Another truth those biblical accounts reveal has to do with the power of God. They remind us that God can do what we can't do. They show us that when we come to our wit's end, and even when modern technology has done all it can do to no avail, there is a great God who can still accomplish what may seem impossible to man.
It was within the context of the angel of the Lord revealing to Abraham that Sarah was going to bear a child that this question is asked: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" It was a question with an obvious answer -- an answer we need to keep in mind in our situations.
However difficult things may look, there is a great God who still hears our prayers and can do what seems inconceivable to us.
So whatever challenge we're facing in this new year, let's remember these truths from those biblical childbearing stories. God is in control, working out what He knows is best for us in His time and according to His purpose.
We need to keep praying, keep believing, and keep submitting to His will, not ours. Let's never lose faith in the right answer to that question, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.